Nigeria Makes Another Attempt at Anti-Corruption
It has now been almost four years since the controversial ouster of former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, back when the anti-corruption unit held some level of international legitimacy, as well as a local reputation as a hammer used against Olusegun Obasanjo’s opponents. Ever since then, with Farida Waziri serving as EFCC Chairperson, the agency has become at best a joke, and, at worst, a tool used to persecute some of Nigeria’s fledgling reformers.
But President Goodluck Jonathan’s abrupt firing of Waziri and appointment of Lamorde has given hope to some observers that the lost prestige could be regained. Writing in Next Newspaper, columnist Stephen Davis argues that “Replacing Waziri is a bold step by President Jonathan. It clearly shows this is not a puppet President but a man who may yet be the leader Nigeria desperately needs to carry the nation through a dark and difficult time.”
For better or for worse – and sometimes such endorsements are actually unhelpful – Lamorde appears to have the backing of the United States. In a statement published on the website for the US Mission to Nigeria, Ambassador Terence McCulley supported the new appointment: “I applaud President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent move to change the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and his willingness to seek a strong candidate to lead the Independent Commission to Prevent Corruption and other related Offenses (ICPC). The United States stands ready to help build these institutions to address corruption effectively and make impunity a thing of the past.”
It is positive that Lamorde is receiving such vocal support, which will hopefully boost his influence against the resistance he is likely to find within the agency and other structures of the administration, but what are the chances for his success? Aside from the welcome feeling of seeing a familiar face (Lamorde served as EFCC Director of Operations during Ribadu’s tenure), what grounds do we have to assume that this government, which up until the moment has shown no willingness to fight corruption, will suddenly change its view? Lastly, is it without meaning that Lamorde was present on the staff of the EFCC during the lost years of Waziri?
No one has the right to judge the performance of Lamorde before he is even given time to act, however it is time for observers of Nigerian public affairs and supporters among the anti-corruption community to open the debate on what kinds of technical steps are going to be required to reform the EFCC into a meaningful prosecutorial body with sufficient independence and powers to act as a check on corruption.